Last updated: April 17. 2014 7:27AM - 986 Views
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Derik Vanderford|Daily TimesLuke Harris warms up his bat on Saturday.
Derik Vanderford|Daily TimesLuke Harris warms up his bat on Saturday.
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UNION COUNTY — Union County Dixie Youth baseball is under way, and those involved say constant progress is being made each year within the league.

Secretary/Treasurer Kelly Small pointed out that several changes have been made to the league over the past few years. In 2012, players’ age groups were split, making a Minor League of 8-, 9-, and 10-year olds and a Major League of 11- and 12-year-olds.

“This allowed our little kids more playing time and the chance to perform with experience on an All-Stars team,” Small said.

In 2013, Dixie Youth added its Machine Pitch League for 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds. There were three teams that competed all that season, with a post-season All-Star team.

“Amazingly enough, in their first year in the league, we were able to host the 2013 Dixie Youth District 2 Machine Pitch Tournament at the Timken Sports Complex and we placed second in the district, losing only to Lancaster,” Small said. “Wow! What an accomplishment for our players, coaches and our league!”

In that same year, there were eight teams in the Minor League and six teams in the 11- and 12-year-old Major League, which was converted from Majors to O-Zone, where players play by high school rules on a slightly smaller field.

“This change allows an advantage for players who try out for middle school teams once they get to seventh grade, all while better preparing them for our Dixie Boys League for 13- and 14-year-olds,” Small said. “Every year we have five or six Dixie Boys teams who open their season once the middle school baseball season has ended.”

For 2014, Union County Dixie Youth has added the Machine Pitch Juniors league for five- and six-year-olds, with five teams playing on a smaller sized diamond, hitting balls at 20-30 mph, pitched from a single wheel pitching machine. The Machine Pitch Seniors league changed to seven- and eight-year-olds, and it exploded into six teams.

“We were amazed last year at the progress and performances of these teams from the start of the season until the end,” Small said. “They were hitting the ball at 40 mph, turning double plays, and sliding in at home to score runs. This year, it’s almost like they never stopped playing in the off season.”

Small said the Minor and O-Zone leagues are both holding steady at six competitive teams. In the Minor League, players learn to pitch; batters learn to hit a baseball pitched by another player; and runners learn to steal bases.

“We have already had some very exciting pre-season scrimmage games in this group and expect our regular season rivalries to surface in the next few weeks,” Small said.

Small said the O-Zone League coaches have been impressed this year at the skill level of the players they drafted back in March.

“When they get players who know the basic fundamentals, they can concentrate on refining their skills and winning ball games,” she said. “In a few years, I believe our middle school, high school and American Legion coaches will see a big difference in the caliber of players coming out of our league who have reaped the benefits of all the changes we have made.”

This year’s teams and sponsors are as follows:

Machine Pitch Juniors sponsors:

Weaver Towing

Founders Federal Credit Union

P & C Mechanical Contractors

Union County Police Club

City Tire & Auto

Machine Pitch Seniors sponsors:

La Fogata Mexican Restaurant

Humphries Sheet Metal

Founders Federal Credit Union

El Poblano Mexican Restaurant

Trans-South Wrestling

Timken Company

Minor League sponsors:

Kingsmore Construction


Rotary Club

Edwards Tax Service

Founders Federal Credit Union

Jimmy’s Galaxy

O-Zone League sponsors:

Crisp & Son Custom Screen Printing

Good’s Building

Lions Club

Elks Club

Kendall Austin Roofing & Construction

Founders Federal Credit Union

Dixie Boys sponsors:

The Diamaduros Law Firm

Exxon of Union

Civitan Club

Founders Federal Credit Union

Tommy Ford is the local Dixie Youth President, and board members include Frank Humphries, Jay Ford, and Scottie Burris. The umpire-in-chief is Phillip Arnold, and Emily Lunsford is in charge of registration and uniforms.

“I am so excited about this year in Dixie Youth Baseball,” Small said. “The weather is changing and the bats are cracking, which makes for a great night at the beautiful Timken Sports Complex.”

In the summer of 2015, we will host the Dixie Youth State Tournament for A, AA and O-Zone Leagues at the Timken Sports Complex. Our Union County All Star teams will not have to complete to qualify for this tournament. This is a huge opportunity for Union County businesses and for our All Star teams. A trip to the Dixie Youth World Series would be an awesome experience for any of our players. We will begin working on all the host requirements in August this year as soon as the All-Star Season has ended.

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